The Prophet’s Wives Teaching The Bible?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Even this assertion is used by Christian missionaries. But before answering this question one must ask how many Christian or Jewish wives the Prophet(P) had and when he had them as wives?
The Prophet(P) had two non-Arab women (A term used by some Arabian historians to mean Jewish, Christian or those from other faiths) one of them was Safiya Bint Hu’yai bin Akhatab from Bani al-Nadhîr (a Jewish tribe) and he married her in the seventh year after his migration to Madinah where all the Meccan Chapters had been fully revealed.
And the other woman was Maryam-the Copt. She was given to him as a good gesture from the Head of the Copts in Egypt. This also occurred in the seventh year after the migration of the Prophet(P) to Madinah. However, all the Meccan Chapters had been fully revealed by then!
Tisdall wants to show, while talking about the apocryphal Gospel Injîlu’t Tufuliyyah, better known as Gospel of Infancy, that Mary-the Copt taught the Prophet(P) about shaking of the palm tree by Mary and Jesus(P) speaking in the cradle. Tisdall says:
The style of the Arabic of this apocryphal Gospel, however, is so bad that it is hardly possible to believe that it dates from Muhammad’s time. As, however, Arabic has never been supposed to be the language in which the work was composed, this is a matter of little or no consequence. From a study of the book there seems little room for doubt that it has been translated into Arabic from the Coptic, in which language it may have been composed.
This explains in what way Muhammad most probably became acquainted with the legend. For it is a well-known fact that the Christian governor of Egypt sent him a present of two Coptic girls, one of whom, “Mary the Copt,” became one of his favourite concubines. This girl, though not well acquainted with the Gospel, must doubtless have known so popular a legend as that contained in the “Gospel of the Infancy” at that time was.
Muhammad probably learnt the tale from her, and, fancying it to be contained in the Gospels universally accepted by Christians as of Divine authority, he on that account incorporated it into the Qur’ân. Of course it is possible that he had others besides Mary who told him Coptic legends, but, whoever his informant or informants may have been, it is clear that the source of the story of the miracle is the one we have mentioned.
There are however, couple of problems with the Mary-the Copt teaching the Prophet(P) about the Jesus(P) speaking in the cradle. Firstly, Tisdall’s own admission that its Arabic is very poor and hence it is hard to believe that it is from Muhammad’s(P) time. The first Arabic Gospel translated from Coptic came a few hundred years later after the advent of Islam.
Secondly, the verse concerning Jesus(P) speaking in the cradle is a Makkan verse. Mary-the Copt was sent to the Prophet(P) in the seventh year of Hijrah and by that time this verse was already revealed! Thirdly, there was no centre for Christianity in the Hijaz area. Hence this is a kind of anachronic explanation. The New Catholic Encyclopaedia says that during the time of the Muhammad(P)
The Hijaz [Arabian peninsula] had not been touched by Christian preaching. Hence organisation of the Christian church was neither to be expected nor found.
Another example of such an anachronic explanation is the Balance for weighing men’s good and bad deeds from the Book of The Dead. The Book of The Dead consists of hymns written in Egyptian Heiroglyphs and was translated by Sir E A Wallis Budge.
Concerning the Balance of weighing good and bad deeds, Tisdall says:
It seems impossible to doubt that Muhammad was indebted, directly or indirectly, for his teaching about the Balance to this apocryphal world, or to the same idea prevalent orally at the time and ultimately derived from Egypt. The probability is that he learnt it from Mary, his Coptic concubine. The conception of such a Balance for weighing men’s deeds, good and bad, is a very ancient one in Egypt. We find it in the ‘Judgment Scene” of the Book of the Dead, so many copies of which have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
The Judgement Hall where Annubis weighs the heart of the deceased (left) against the feather of justice (right). Thoth transcribes the results while Ammit looks on.
Refering to above picture, Tisdall asserts that:
It is evident from a comparison of this picture with what we have read in the Testament Of Abraham and in the Qur’ân that the balance mentioned in the Qur’ân and the traditions of the Muhammad is ultimately derived from the ancient Egyptian mythology, through the medium of Coptic Christian ideas which are mentioned in the Testament of Abraham, having being handed down orally during generation after generation in Egypt, the land of their birth.
We again have problems here. The first one of of the lost and found case of Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states (Under “Hieroglyph”):
In the period of the 3rd dynasty (c. 2650-c. 2575 BC), many of the principles of hieroglyphic writing were regularized. From that time on, until the script was supplanted by an early version of Coptic (about the 3rd and 4th centuries AD), the system remained virtually unchanged. Even the number of signs used remained constant at about 700 for more than 2,000 years.
With the rise of Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD came the decline and ultimate demise not only of the ancient Egyptian religion but of its hieroglyphics as well. The use, by the Egyptian Christians, of an adapted form of the Greek alphabet, caused a correspondingly widespread disuse of the native Egyptian script. The last known use of hieroglyphics is on an inscription dated AD 394.
Further the discovery of Rosetta stone resulted in deciphering the Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Encyclopaedia Britannica states (Under “Hieroglyph”):
The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 was to provide the key to the final unlocking of the mystery. The stone was inscribed with three different scripts: hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. Based on the stone’s own declaration, in the Greek portion, that the text was identical in all three cases, several significant advances were made in translation. A.I. Silvestre de Sacy, a French scholar, and J.D. Akerblad, a Swedish diplomat, succeeded in identifying a number of proper names in the demotic text. Akerblad also correctly assigned phonetic values to a few of the signs.
An Englishman, Thomas Young, correctly identified five of the hieroglyphics. The full deciphering of the stone was accomplished by another Frenchman, Jean-Françoise Champollion. He brought to the stone a natural facility for languages (having, by age 16, become proficient in six ancient Oriental languages as well as Greek and Latin). By comparison of one sign with another, he was able to determine the phonetic values of the hieroglyphics. Later studies simply confirmed and refined Champollion’s work.
The second one is that of the Mary the-Copt teaching Prophet(P). As we have seen above that she was sent to the Prophet(P) in the seventh year of Hijrah. Are there any Makkan verses dealing with the concept of Balance?
|al-Qaria’|||Verses 6~9 Mecca ||
|as-Shura|||Verse 17 Mecca ||
|ar-Rahmaan|||Verse 7 Madina ||
So, the verses of weighing deeds in the Balance were already revealed before Mary the-Copt was sent to the Prophet(P). Hence this explanation/suggestion also falls on its face.
The third one is that of the presence of Coptic Christianity in the Hijaz region of Arabia. We have already seen above that there were no seats of Christianity in the Hijaz region, leave alone Coptic Christianity.
The fourth one is about the content in the Book of the Dead and that of the Qur’ân concerning the Balance. The contents of the Book of the Dead are available on the web.
Of particular interest is the texts related to weighing of the heart of Ani in the Judgement Hall (See the above figure). The heart of Ani is weighed against the feather of Maat (truth and justice). The ancients Egyptians reasoned that a pure heart was not heavy but light and unencumbered. If the heart of the deceased was lighter than the feather then the person could pass on to meet Osiris, ruler of the Land of the Dead.
If they were one of the unfortunate ones who were untrue in deeds in their life then the heart would be heavier than the feather. Their fate then becomes grim. They would get gobbled up by the creature that is standing hungrily by the base of the scale, Ammit, who has a crocodile head, forefront of a lioness and the hind quarters of a hippopotamus. The entire affair was witnessed by the so-called “Great Tribunal” as seen lined up at the top of the scene.
Now does that in anyway resemble the Islamic concept of Day of Judgement? This is anybody’s guess!
So what did they teach the Prophet(P)? This question should be directed to the Christian missionaries who came up with these kinds of thoughts.
Credit Islamic Awarness
Related Articles On The Borrowing Theories Of The Qur’ân
 Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources Of The Qur’ân, 1905, Society For The Promotion Of Christian Knowledge, London, p.170-171.
 New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America, Washington D C, 1967, Vol. 1, pp. 721-722.
 Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, Op.Cit, p.202.
 Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, Op.Cit, p.205.
 Britannica Online: Encyclopedia Britannica On The World Wide Web.